Quarantine means something different to the children of nurses. It means staying quiet all day so that your mom can sleep before her third 15-hour night shift in a row. It means waking up every morning to ask, "How was your shift?" even though you know her night was chaotic. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken hold of the medical field and is testing healthcare professionals in ways we may have never anticipated. Family dynamics is just one thing that they're dealing with.
Social media is flooded with medical professionals sharing how the virus is affecting them mentally, physically, and emotionally. Most of these individuals are nurses. They are constantly attending to multiple sick patients at a time while trying to please the people they are attending to and the doctors as well. Nurses are fighting a microscopic virus head-on, and they are fighting hard.
If I have learned anything from this pandemic, it is that a nurse's job doesn't end when they get home. Everything my mother does is an effort to keep everyone healthy and free of the virus. Since New Jersey shut down for quarantine in March, she has made every effort to keep my family educated on the importance of social distancing and the dangers of the virus.
The entire dynamic of my family had to change once more cases started popping up. My dad, sister, and I had to point out the marks the masks were leaving on my mother's face. She is too exhausted when she gets home to even notice.
Life became about making sure my mom is getting enough rest in order to keep up with her shifts.
My sister and I always joke that living with a nurse right now is like living with a 16-year-old boy. We occasionally see a figure race into the kitchen for a quick bowl of sugary cereal, just to see it disappear into a bedroom for an 8-hour nap. When we give her a wake-up call, we hear a slight grown, and the thud of her flopping over to her side...sounds like a morning during high school, right?
We cherish the days when my mom is off work. We usually order out, and the four of us catch up over dinner. In my family, communication is extremely important because there is constantly a level of tension. Little things such as what we need from the grocery store have become an important topic of discussion.
My mom works at one of the bigger hospitals in our area, where COVID-19 patients are treated. Considering there is a possibility of her being exposed to the virus every night she works, we constantly have to disinfect every surface in our house. Not to mention the abundance of homemade masks we have in almost every room of the house.
Convincing two teenagers to stay inside is a challenge in itself. My mom bears the weight of multiple lives, including her children. My sister and I can feel that. Though we may not express it to her, we feel the unspoken effects she endures after coming home from each shift.
Staying quiet for an entire day is not something I ever would have thought to be challenging. However, I am here to say that once this virus makes its exit, I will be parading around my house as loudly as possible. Moving home from my college dormitory where I could basically do whatever I wanted to my house where I have to be conscious of someone sleeping all the time felt like I was a bird who had their wings clipped. I am constantly trying to fly forgetting I have no wings anymore. I then freeze and beat myself up in my mind for forgetting to be quiet.
Having any kind of medical professional live with you at this time is a challenge. Everyone has to make an effort to check up on each other in order for things to move smoothly. For anyone who is closely related to a medical professional, your expressions towards them matter. Sometimes even a small expression of gratitude will go a long way, or even just saying "You're doing great" could make a positive difference in their day.